Constitutional Loophole That Allows Forced Labor in Prisons

Abolition Amendment that was reintroduced after President Biden signed legislation this month to create a federal holiday commemorating June 19th as Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Some human rights advocates say Juneteenth didn’t actually mark the end of slavery in the United States, because of a clause in the 13th Amendment that bans the enslavement of people with the exception of involuntary servitude as punishment for being convicted of a crime. Now Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Georgia Congressmember Nikema Williams have reintroduced legislation to amend the 13th Amendment.

I think we need to look at exactly where we are in our country right now. We’re in a period of reckoning with our country’s history. Just yesterday on the House floor, we voted to remove statues of people who voluntarily served the Confederacy in this country. We saw what happened on January 6th. We came together as a country and voted in a very bipartisan — because people like to use that word so much — bipartisan fashion to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. But yet we still have our country’s founding document; our Constitution has an exception for slavery. And the history of this country is marked with racism and white supremacy and oppression, and it’s up to us to do something about it.

So, eliminating the loophole in the 13th Amendment, that still allows for slavery if people have been convicted of a crime, is one way to continue to move forward with addressing the problems of our past and building for the future. I think I hear a lot people say, “But it’s not really happening, and there’s no slavery, like, really happening in the country.” Then what’s the problem with removing it, Amy? What I know and what I’ve seen from history is, some laws are put on the books and some things are in place just so that they can be used in certain instances, for certain people.

— source | Jun 30, 2021

Nullius in verba

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